Accounting and dance may not seem like a natural couple, but a unique double major has started to bring the two fields together at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Penn.
Cheryl Clark, an associate professor of accounting at Point Park, has been teaching at the university since September 2004. By her own estimates, she’s taught about half a dozen accounting/dance double majors over the years, with another half dozen students holding dance majors with accounting minors.
“If there is anything that is really striking about Point Park, it is the diversity of our students," said Clark. "Seeing someone in my class that doesn’t fit the stereotypical accounting student mold is to be expected, from my experience."
What brings these two fields of study together, Clark said, is a student's desire to satisfy all their career ambitions, exploring both the creative and business sides of undergrad study.
“[They’re] long-term thinkers," she relayed. "They know that although they love dance, the likelihood that they will be able to perform until they reach a ripe old retirement age is unlikely. They are trying to get the best of both worlds, I think."
"Sometimes they tell me that after their performing days are over, they will probably want to open up a dance school or a dance-related business and they want to know how the business side of things works," she added. "When reality sets in on graduation, the career opportunities in accounting just may be hard to walk away from!”
Jessica Calzi, a former dance/accounting double major at the University, and current audit staff member at Top 100 Firm Freed Maxick in Buffalo, N.Y., said that her time at the school helped her career on multiple fronts.
While she initially considered accounting as her back-up career, her father wouldn't allow her to major in dance without a double major.
"I was always interested in math growing up, so my father suggested I try accounting and see how I liked it," she said. "I was not thrilled about having to double major, but it ended up working out in the end. I had an internship in accounting the summer after my junior year and realized that it was something I actually enjoyed."
"I think that dance allowed me to be creative during school and it was a great outlet," said Calzi. "I learned structure and discipline from my dance classes [and] this helped with accounting because I needed discipline in order to excel in these courses and after school with studying for my CPA."
Clark also notes that these double major students aren't without their own particular traits.
“The dancers fare very well as accounting students," she said. "The basic accounting classes, Introductory through Intermediate, really require a lot of dedication and practice to master … Dancers inherently know this. They have to spend hours of practice in order to get ready for a performance, which correlates to practicing lots of homework problems to get ready for a test. Accounting is not a discipline that can be learned well by taking shortcuts. Dancers find a way to put the time in to learn the material.”
Calzi added that her busy schedule as an undergrad also helped her carry over some valuable skills to her professional career.
"It taught me a lot about time management," she said. "I had dance classes from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. with an hour-and-a-half break during that time. On top of regular classes, I would have rehearsals from 6 to 9 p.m. and on the weekends. I had to squeeze academics in when I had an open time block during the day, at nights, or take online classes. My professors were very understanding when I would have to miss my accounting classes for rehearsals. This forced me to be very independent in my work, along with teaching me how to manage time. Both of these skills are important in my career and something that has helped me to excel in the real world."
If they're up to it, Calzi still believes that accounting students should explore the options of a double major to give their lives and careers a strong balance.
"Accountants have a stigma for being boring and I don’t think that’s necessarily the case," she urged. "You can do accounting and still be passionate about something that is completely different. Double majoring is something that can be stressful; however, it gives you a lot of tools for working after school. It teaches you how to handle the stress of a heavy workload and how to be efficient in order to maximize productivity during the small free time you have."
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